What is ecotourism? How does it work? Why does it matter? And how can we, as travelers, put it into practice?
In recent years, people tend to start thinking and talking about nature conservation more and more as we continue to see the continuingly negative impacts of mass tourism on beloved destinations around the world.
Whether you call it green travel, eco-travel, sustainable travel, or responsible ecotourism, there’s something incredibly potent, powerful, and cleansing about getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city to unspoiled nature that simply soothes our soul.
According to Wikipedia, the word Ecotourism is a form of tourism involving responsible travel (using sustainable transport) to natural areas, conserving the environment, and improving the well-being of the local people.
In simple words, the meaning of ecotourism is travel that makes a positive impact on both the ECOlogy and ECOnomy of a given destination.
One mistake many people make is assuming that ecotourism is all about conserving nature and wildlife by any means necessary. But if a destination or business’ tourism development strategy does not actively provide concrete financial benefits for the indigenous people, it’s not truly ecotourism.
The movement of Ecotourism began to take shape back in the 1980s. It is the oldest and most commonly used word for it. More recent buzzwords include sustainable tourism, green tourism, nature tourism, responsible tourism, ethical tourism, mindful travel, conscious travel, pro-poor tourism, and many others.
Regardless of what you call it, the fundamental concepts that these philosophies share in common are that the travel industry as a whole should adopt more environmentally friendly practices, protect the natural and cultural heritage of a destination, and support local communities.
How to Put the Ecotourism Principles into Practice
Becoming a responsible eco-tourist will have the most significant impact. An eco-tourist is the one who is aware of the places they visit and do everything possible to help improve that by following these simple steps:
- Always be more conscious of your water and electricity usage even when you’re in your hotel room and turn off the lights and TV when you plan to go out.
- It’s also a good idea to put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door and reuse towels if you can. This reduces the water, electricity, and cleaning chemicals used by the staff in tidying up your room.
- It’s also helpful to get into the habit of recycling and reusing everything as much as you can. Use a reusable BPA-free water bottle, so you don’t need to use a plastic bottle.
- Consider putting back the brochure or maps after you use them so they can be reused.
- When buying souvenirs or looking for activities to do, always look for local, sustainable options. Opt for souvenirs made by the locals using sustainable materials.
- Meet the locals and embrace their culture.
- Whatever you do, don’t leave trash or anything behind.